Under Surveillance

Source: Rearviewsafety.com

Not to go all Prairie Home Companion on you, but it’s been a busy few weeks here at Snakes in the Grass. So much so, that I’m starting to be a little concerned about the seven loyal readers who dutifully follow our adventures here. I want no impeachment articles to be levied against little ‘ol me after all; so it’s therefore best that I start doing my part in defending and upholding the constitution of this blog.

Transcripts and the surveillance of phone conversations are all the rage in the headlines right now. I can appreciate that too because I’ve got my own problems in that department. While I personally haven’t been violating campaign laws, I have been found guilty at least four times now of braking too hard, at least according to my new insurance company. The judge and jury for this is a small little box that’s plugged into some whatsamacallit under my dashboard.

You see, my car insurance is spying on me.

But I’m slightly ahead of myself here, though. Let me unpack this for you…

Several months ago, you might recall that in my quest for some sinfully greasy and high-cholesterol egg foo young, I ended up paying dearly for it by getting into a fender-bender. The police determined that I wasn’t at fault, but my insurance company — we won’t name it here, but their spokesman is green and has a tail — ignored that and still found me guilty. As the clock started to tick to the end of my policy term with them, I decided it might be a good idea to shop around for a policy with a different company.

After a few days of shopping in July, I signed up with a new company who offered me a better rate. And this was even after I honestly told them about my little Chinese food escapade (emphasizing the police report, of course). They put me on hold for a few of minutes to enter my name into some database, and then came back to proclaim me as a worthy and upstanding driver. They hereby offered me a rate $30 lower than what I had been paying at the previous company.

Ha! Take that you little green vermin with the fake Aussie accent.

I’m slightly shy in telling you the name of the new insurance company. This is in part due to my now having a better appreciation of how search engines work, courtesy of a post I wrote a handful of years ago about a former life insurance policy I had (suffice to say it’s my most-read post, and the company which held the policy is currently involved in a class-action lawsuit with former customers). So while I don’t wish to mention the name of my new car insurance provider, I can at least show you the woman who sold me the policy:

Source: Wikipedia

Who hasn’t seen her?!

As I was sealing the deal for the new policy, I asked if they had any other discounts for which I might be eligible. I’m a male about to turn 60; I was positive they’d bend over backwards to give me an even lower rate, right? Ahem. But wait, it turns out they could! And all it would cost me is 100% of my driving privacy for the next six months.

Privacy, shmivacy. Who cares?!

P.T. Barnum never had it so right. I am indeed a sucker.

For another $40 reduction, I totally agreed to have the company monitor our driving for the next six months. Our rate can potentially be further reduced, or it could actually be raised if they determine we aren’t the safe drivers I’ve represented us to be. But with nary a speeding ticket, and only an MSG-fueled parking lot mishap recently, I decided to accept their offer. My savings was now a full $70 under what I had paid to the green reptile.

It wasn’t until we received the device after our policy period started that I actually discovered how they measure one’s driving. They’re basically looking at two things: (1) how much you slam down on your brakes, and (2) the degree to which you then slam down on your accelerator after you lift up on said brake (in other words, the famed “jack rabbit” start). Both measures, but in particular the one for braking, can ostensibly determine how reckless of a driver you are. They also look at the number of hours a car is driven and the general times in which you use the car (i.e. allegedly lots of night driving is considered more dangerous).

We’re practically the little old lady who drives to the supermarket and church only. Except for us it’s the gym and then the supermarket. And sometimes we go to the beach, oh and then there’s also my part-time job once a week, and. then the public library, and… Oh, okay, so we’re not quite that proverbial old lady. But we really are home more than we’re out. I’m married to a workaholic who works from home after all.

Soon after plugging in the device and going out for our maiden drive with it, I approached a yellow light and then apparently pushed down too hard on the brake pedal as I came to a stop. “Beep-beep! Beep-beep!,” came from below the dashboard.

Not ten minutes later, as we entered a medical office parking lot, I had to quickly stop to avoid a car that was backing up and hadn’t noticed us. “Beep-beep! Beep beep!

Dang. I’m not even getting an egg roll out of the deal.

Gorgeous was not pleased. “Why did you do this?! This is an invasion of our privacy!

For the record, she didn’t say it was a witch hunt at least, which I suppose is some consolation.

It’s been mostly smooth-sailing since then, though. Gorgeous did receive a beep when she stopped too hard at a stop sign, and I got one as I approached and stopped at another traffic light. But for the most part I’m learning to lift up on the gas sooner as we approach a red light, apply the break gently, and probably come to more rolling stops than I may have previously. I’ve never been one for fast get-aways, so any rapid acceleration in my six cylinder car is probably never going to be a factor.

They allow customers to log in and view the driving reports. Below is a screen capture of ours:

I’ll know in January how we’ve done when they ask us to mail back the device, and also give us our quote for the next six months. Until then I’m begging you, please don’t slam on your brakes if you’re driving ahead of me. Those beeps are soul crushing.

Until next time…

38 thoughts on “Under Surveillance

    1. I read it was used to exonerate a man who was accused of a crime he didn’t commit! So I guess it worked for him in the opposite way intended. They make it clear they don’t have a GPS component to it, nor do they allegedly know your speed either. I’ll do it for this initial period and probably not do it later if they request it. But hey, I got a blog post out of it. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I’m all about reductions in premiums, but don’t know if I’d sign up for your deal – I can imagine that I’d be too conscious of the potential for hearing the beeps and get distracted and then cause the beeps and then spiral right out of control!

    Didn’t know it was an option, though, so I thank you for that insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea. A friend of mine who reads this is pretty big about his privacy, and I imagine he’s shaking his head at me right now. 🙂 We can opt out of the program at any time (though we’d lose the savings in the next period). I’m okay with it, but I do get not everyone would want to do it.


  2. Wow! I can see where having that device installed might be tempting but just monitoring things like braking hard without context (would they have rather you had gone through the yellow light?) seems a bit arbitrary. I hope it works out for you… can you imagine if they raised your rate afterwards? I would also wonder (call me paranoid) about privacy issues. I mean, if the President of the US can’t have a private conversation with a foreign government about investigating a political rival, what amount of privacy can you expect?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m reasonably sure the NSA isn’t monitoring my car, but who knows?!!! 🙂

      If you read about me in conjunction with any hearing Adam Schiff is heading you’ll know why! Call me naive (“Hi, Naive!“) but I’m not really too worried about this. We actually drive our car so infrequently compared to most people (literally in the morning only on most days) that I think if nothing else I’m going to end up being the proverbial “Even Stephen” here. Will you settle for “Moderate Marty?” 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s how it starts… Today the monitor your braking and accelerating. Tomorrow it’s how many Starbucks stir sticks you have in your console and how much loose change is underneath the seats! Nah baby nah… I’ll pay the $40 extra. My risk would be that I’d end having to pay more! The drivers here in Atlanta are NUTS and break slamming is essential for not hitting the person in front of you who crossed over 3 lanes to take the exit ramp. Every. Single. Day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, you hit the nail on the head, AGMA. If lived in California still… or if I lived in DC with its insane beltway, I would not accept this device under any circumstances! But in bucolic and (mostly) drive-friendly St. Augustine, I think we’ll get through it for the next five months. After that, I probably won’t do it again. Where you live does make a difference!

      But if they ever start counting calories on my Chinese food orders and using that against me, I’m toast.


  4. I have a friend who is doing something similar but it’s on her phone. So when she was with us (hubby was driving), she mentioned how she would have to go in and input that she was a passenger! Hubby would never do well with your device… he’s a hard stop, fast start, and drive too fast on the highway guy. (OK, I’m a drive too fast on the highway also.). I do hope you get the discount… those beeps would annoy me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read a review of the device prior which suggested not to download the mobile app for your phone. I never use when I drive, but they said mistakes can happen in the technology where they still think you are using it. So I just won’t get the app.

      I’m that right lane driver you always pass on the highway. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. HI, Marty – As we all know, trying to maintain one’s privacy can definitely be a lost cause in this current age. As a trade-0ff, you do have a good report card. And the six months should speed by quickly (driving the speed limit that is)! And a $70 savings…that’s pretty sweet!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That is much too intrusive for me to even consider it. I get the idea of saving money, but no way. Insurance companies are evil. I aways feel a need to say “get thee behind me, Satan” when dealing with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think it’s pretty common over here for new drivers – usually younger ones – but I recently noticed one insurance company run an advertising campaign which seemed to be offering the device you’re currently using, for a discount. I, too, am a insurance companies are evil believer so would be inclined not to sign up. That said, I had a spy device for a few months in the form of Himself’s GPS monitoring my speed everywhere we went after I got sent on a speed awareness course. I can’t deny that the annoying beeping did make me watch my speed like a hawk 😉 so I guess it worked a treat. Good luck with yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Marty, You have opened up the floodgates on insurance stories. I won’t even begin to share mine. (I have bookmarked your life insurance policy post to read)

    I am in shock on the “small little box!” For little old me, officially able to say only a Grandmother has driven this car. (I refuse to use the phrase “little old lady) Then, I read how the privacy box is a choice. Or is it? Is there a moniter hiding somewhere at all times?

    As usual, your post made me smile, think, anxious, all in the same breath. Funny, appropriate video, too.

    No concerns Marty, on loyal readers. I am at the least, number eight, dutifully and patiently waiting for your pearls of wisdom.😊 (A tardy responder this month on all related to wifi/cell since we were camping for two weeks)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, Erica! If memory serves me correctly, my little joke about the number of readers was actually six prior to your following me earlier this year. 🙂

      This for sure is a choice to have the insurance company monitor our driving. I thought once, twice, even three times before agreeing to do it. But both of us are defensive drivers, and that extra discount was just too enticing for me. Still, I’m sure this is the last time I ever do it. It’s yet one more thing to have to think about when I’m driving, and I’d rather lessen that load if I can. The device is plugged into some plug under the dashboard — easy enough to find, small enough to not ever see. After six months they’ll contact me to send it back to them in a return-padded envelope that they’ve already provided.

      I hope your camping trip was nice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds lovely, especially the no cell part.

        I guess I’m going to have to do an update, don’t I? I normally don’t like to return to topics, but I think I’ve done that with retirement finances several times already. The die has already been cast! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  9. You really got me thinking, Marty. In our quest to lower our monthly costs, this may be a good opportunity for us. I really don’t care about the surveillance aspect of it, and since we drive like little old ladies, it may help us cut our insurance premiums. It has always seemed ridiculous to me that the number of miles driven and the carefulness of your driving habits did not affect your rate. This monitoring system seems like a great idea, and I intend to check it out when we get home. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So far it’s working out okay, Joe. I suspect if I lived in a major metropolitan area and/or a big city, I might think differently. But all things considered driving in our town is relatively mellow. So — crossing fingers — I think this might work out with lower insurance rates in the next policy period. I promise to update.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I always wondered how that thing worked. A friend of mine was recently rear ended by someone who was covered by this insurance company. They refuse to pay. So, if you have more mishaps, you may never be at fault again, at least according to your insurance company!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A good friend of mine can’t believe I signed up for that very reason: that it could be used against me somehow. I suppose that’s possible in theory, but I also think it could be there to also save you too. I’m really not worried about liability; but I am hoping it’ll save me some extra shekels in the next policy period. 🙂


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